Monday, October 27, 2008

Even More Yummy Academia

In case any of you missed reading specialist literature that makes little sense without a couple years' training, I've copied the abstract for a presentation my former classmate and I are submitting to a conference next June.

Variation in Apology Use through Studying Group Face

Several researchers (de Kadt, 1998; Nwoye, 1992; Obeng, 1999) have proposed that the concept of face (Brown & Levinson, 1987) can be attached to groups of people as well as individuals. Hahn and Hatfield (submitted) documented the existence of face for groups in Korean apology use, but, when comparing practice in Korea to practice in other societies, also found that that the groups bearing face were culture-specific. This observation opens up the possibility of concentrated research on diversity and variation in politeness, which is not well documented in the existing literature. This current want could be because attempts to establish legitimate inter-societal variation, such as the collectivist versus individualist distinction (Yum, 1987), can easily result in covering up intra-societal variation. The time certainly seems ripe for a concentrated, almost Labovian, look at politeness diversity within a community. In this paper, we look at apology use in Korea and the United States, focusing on possible attacks on a family's face.

A discourse completion task is employed through-out the study for two purposes: 1) to examine the existence of family face in both Korean and the United States by manipulating the family members involved in the speech events (parent, sibling, or grown child), as well as the severity of the situation, and 2) document the diversity that exists in each society with regard to family face. We examine diversity in three ways. First, we sample three different age groups, 20s, 40s, and 60s, in order to see if apology use changes through time. A discourse-completion task allows for analysis of both whether an apology is warranted at all by the event and whether the language used to apologize is differentiable by age. Secondly, we take a large enough sample of each group, with corresponding statistical analysis, to document the natural distribution of apology use. Finally, by comparing Korea with the United States, we get a first look at how typical each distribution is. The results will provide a far more nuanced view of sociolinguistic behavior than the traditional collectivist versus individualist distinction.

Brown, Penelope, Levinson, Stephen C., 1987. Politeness: Some Universals in Language Use. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

de Kadt, Elizabeth, 1998. The concept of face and its applicability to the Zulu language. Journal of Pragmatics 29 (2), 173-191.

Hahn, Jeewon, Hatfield, Hunter, submitted. The Concept of Face: Implications of Korean Apologies.

Nwoye, Onuigbo, 1992. Linguistic politeness and socio-cultural variation of the notion of face. Journal of Pragmatics 18, 309-328.

Obeng, Samuel Gyasi, 1999. Apologies in Akan discourse. Journal of Pragmatics 31(5), 709-734.

Yum, June-Ock, 1987. Korean philosophy and communication. In: Kincaid, D. Lawrence (Ed.), Communication Theory: Eastern and Western Perspectives. Academic Press, San Diego, pp. 71- 86.


McKoala said...

You lost me after the first sentence. Clearly this is great work!

writtenwyrdd said...

Cool concept, and an interesting topic. I've been trying to understand Eastern group culture (if that's a proper term for it) and 'face' with lots of confusion. We Westerners don't get it, I think, because it's profoundly foreign to how we perceive our role in society and how we think about our own relative importance. I mean, the US has been a 'me first' and 'rugged individualist' culture since it's inception.

Cool. Thanks for sharing.

Precie said...

I was kinda hoping this would deal with apology in public gender-related frequency of apology. But face and apology in familial settings, particularly inter-generation settings, sounds fascinating.

Good luck!

Precie said...

sidenote: If you're feeling left out by all the NaNoWriMo talk, you might consider InadWriMo!

pacatrue said...

Hi precie,

Well, we could make some comments about gender, because we will be recording that, though it isn't the focus. This is restricted only to family because of the American/Korean comparison. I am expecting that Americans will sometimes apologize for family attacks, but far less often.

Something that might be of particular interest based on your comment that we are leading up to is change through cultural contact/immigration. Specifically, we want to look at Korean-American ideas of family face. There are at least three possibilities with such a community. 1) They act like Koreans; 2) Through time, they act just like Americans; and 3) the community converges to some third state distinct from both. I would expect #3. The hardest part of such a comparison though is defining Americans. There's no non-insulting way to do so. My guess is it will end up being everyone who isn't Korean-American, but that's not a great solution either.

Precie said...

Oooh, fascinating!

A 4th possibility---the community, much like a multilingual child, learns to do switching in specific cultural contexts. Maybe.

I see your dilemma re: definition of Americans. Um...yeah, no ideas.